Real Madrid’s transfer policy: targeting youth signings

MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 12: Alvaro Morata of Real Madrid is challenged by Dani Ceballos (L) and Tosca of Real Betis Balompie during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Betis Balompie at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on March 12, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 12: Alvaro Morata of Real Madrid is challenged by Dani Ceballos (L) and Tosca of Real Betis Balompie during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Betis Balompie at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on March 12, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images) /
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The imminent signing of Dani Ceballos is another example of Real Madrid’s transfer policy shift towards targeting youth.

In previous years, Real Madrid became famous for their ‘Galácticos’ strategy which prioritised signing expensive, world-class players. Florentino Pérez used this strategy to ensure he kept his popularity and appeased the fans, but this came at the expense of consistent success.

With the appointment of Zinedine Zidane as manager, Los Blancos finally have someone with enough of a reputation at Real Madrid to challenge Pérez. Interestingly, he was one of the most famous ‘Galácticos’.

However, his time as manager has seen the club shift away from this inefficient strategy. Instead, they have been targeting promising young players to act as long-term replacements and fill the current holes in the squad.

Summer Signings

In this window, Real have signed two players: Theo Hernández and Vinícius Júnior. They are also on the cusp of signing Dani Ceballos. Transfer rumours have heavily linked Kylian Mbappé with them as well; he looks likely to move next season rather than in the current window.

These three compliment signings from other seasons: Marco Asensio, Mateo Kovačić, Isco and Jesús Vallejo. Isco and Kovačić had already proven themselves at a high level, whereas, Asensio and Vallejo were loaned out to gain experience. This allowed them to form a deadly squad for the 2016/17 season with a ridiculous depth of talent. They have continued this policy because it led them to their first European double in nearly 60 years.

There is a clear strategy behind their current transfer business. Hernández replaces Fábio Coentrão as a much younger backup for Marcelo. Vinícius has the potential to be the next Brazilian wonderkid, so they decided to acquire him early. The assumption behind this is that he will continue to develop in the Brazilian league. Ceballos gives them added depth of quality in midfield and allows Zidane to rest Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić for more matches.

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Loan Returnees

A few players have returned from their loans for the upcoming season. Vallejo is backup centre-back along with Nacho for Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane. Marcos Llorente is competition for Casemiro in the defensive midfielder role after his excellent season with Deportivo Alavés. Borja Mayoral is Karim Benzema’s backup due to the probable departure of Alvaro Morata. His loan spell at Wolfsburg was disappointing, though.

The hope is that these players provide competition for players in order to allow Real to compete on three fronts. There is also the potential to make money on these players if they continue their upwards development.

Asensio is the best product of this process because he was signed for €3.9 million from RCD Mallorca in 2014. Although, he remained there for the rest of the season, and then went to Espanyol on loan for the following season. He was brought into the first team last season, and he certainly took his opportunity by scoring on his debut as well as his first league start. The young Spaniard had an excellent first season with the club. He is extremely talented, though, so he is unlike most players.

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Zidane has been busy getting rid of the ‘deadwood’ in the team as well as players unhappy at their lack of game time. Pepe and Coentrão were deemed surplus to requirements due to their age.

James Rodríguez wasn’t happy with his role in the last campaign, so he was moved on to Bayern Munich. Asensio took over his role in the team, which means they aren’t lacking in this area. It’s a bad deal for Real because they are likely to lose around €35 million on the Colombian. However, he was actively agitating for a move away so it had to be done.

Removing these players allows Zidane to rejuvenate the team with youth. It also reduces the wage bill, and means they will be able to bring in Mbappé next season. He would be another young signing, but it would be more of a ‘Galáctico’ signing due to his proven quality.

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This method of transfer business is a smart way of dealing with the current transfer market inflation. It also allows Los Blancos to have the depth required to be consistent through an entire league season.